Good Weed vs Bad Weed: How Will You Know?

Francis Cassidy May 14, 2019 4 comments

How can you know that you are buying ‘good weed?’

Good weed vs bad weed, dank weed vs crap weed, or medicine vs the stuff that leaves you foggy? No matter how you choose to refer to the quality of cannabis, we’ve all encountered both types.

But just how do you tell one apart from the other? Well, the answer lies in the sticky fingers and sparkling crystals, the pungent smells and tight dense buds, the dark greens and purple speckles. And that vibrant mix of terpenes, cannabinoids, and flavonoids all encompassed in that radiant aromatic scent.

Nowadays most buy their cannabis in high-end dispensaries as opposed to meeting a sketchy stranger on the street corner. With that comes greater choice, but don’t be fooled: the quality is never uniform. Some growers are more conscientious and they consistently produce quality strains. Others don’t. But what are the telltale signs of quality cannabis?

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Inspect Your Cannabis Visually

When evaluating good weed vs bad weed, the latter can be quickly ‘weeded out’ with a visual inspection. Color is the first thing to evaluate. It may go without saying that green is good. So are oranges and purples, which vary based on the presence of anthocyanins, flavonoids, and terpenes. Brown and black however, suggest that the bud is past its best.

The buds themselves should be firm and dense. They shouldn’t compress too much when pressed. The trim job is also important. The buds should have no leaves or seeds and should contain just the bare minimum of stems to hold it together. You don’t want to smoke any of that.

A frosted look is always a good thing. The crystals show there are many potent trichomes dripping with cannabinoids and terpenes. If your fingers become sticky when breaking the bud apart, that’s a great sign!

Finally, make sure the cannabis is cured properly. It should be neither too wet nor too dry, and the moisture level should be even throughout. If it’s dry and dusty, it’s not good quality. If it turns straight to powder upon grinding, then – if you hadn’t already realized – you probably got the short straw. It will likely result in a quick burning, harsh-tasting smoke that’s devoid of much of that original goodness and therapeutic effect.

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Brown cannabis is bad.

How Does Quality Cannabis Smell?

Just because something looks good, doesn’t mean it smells good. And the same applies to cannabis! The smell of cannabis is generally influenced by its terpene profile. Those potent molecules that are found everywhere in nature are excreted by trichomes. They contain essential oils that play such an important role in the therapeutic effects of the plant. If you have those frosted trichomes accompanied by a potent smell that lingers, then you likely have some good quality cannabis. If however it smells like dry hay, then that stash is probably well past its best.

Quality cannabis should be packed in an airtight container. That helps preserve the medicinal properties, while also helping to ensure that the potent smell doesn’t escape. And that’s always advisable if you live in a place where rogue  fragrance might create problems!

What Does Each Smell Mean?

But what can we discern from the smell of quality cannabis? Well, certain terpenes are more prevalent than others, and some have a potent aroma you can easily single out.

If it smells like citrus, then that’ll be the limonene. Known for antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects, this potent terpene always brings a grounding balance to the cannabis experience. A piney scent is the result of the terpene pinene. Known for boosting cognitive ability both in terms of concentration and memory, this powerful terpene becomes a strong ally when conducting ‘inner work’. What if there’s a musky, herbal smell to the cannabis? That’s myrcene. It does wonders for relaxation and sleep and when you modulate its effects; and it exhibits anti-inflammatory and antibiotic effects.

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Many other terpenes collectively influence not just the smell, but the taste and medicinal effects via the entourage effect. Studies are beginning to shed some light on the benefits of consuming all of the plant’s compounds together, and it’s that pungent smell that suggests that much of these still remain intact.

How Should Good Cannabis Smoke?

If you choose to smoke cannabis then the taste should be pleasant and smooth. There should be no harshness in the throat, and you should begin to feel the medicated effect after 3-4 hits.

If you find that you’re having to consume more than normal, then it’s a sign you’re medicating with something subpar. If the cannabis tastes harsh and irritates your throat, don’t smoke it. It has gone bad.

How Should Cannabis Burn?

How the medicine burns is also related to its quality. If you’ve got this far and still aren’t sure how to rate your cannabis, then the color of the ash might tell you.

If it’s entirely black, then it’s a sign that someone didn’t properly flush the cannabis, that it was too moist, or that it contained too many pesticides – and those are not good for anyone. Good quality cannabis burns both black and white. Ideally your ash should have a peppered look once consumed.

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What if You Don’t Know Anything?

If you’re starting out on this journey then it’s always best to team up with someone who will show you the ropes. Dispensaries usually have budtenders willing to help you choose the best product and answer your questions. If they aren’t, then it’s best to go somewhere else that will.

Finding the right medicine of sufficient quality is important for patients. Learning how to identify good weed vs bad weed helps to ensure that you obtain all the benefits of this miraculous plant by selecting only the best.

Author avatar

Francis Cassidy
Francis Cassidy is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics. With a particular focus on the cannabis industry, he aims to help ensure the smooth reintegration of cannabis back into global culture. When not writing, he's to be found exploring his new base in British Columbia, Canada. You can follow his other works including his photography on his blog


  1. Nurun Pearce

    Which strain of cannabis is great for muscular and joint pain, without causing too much sleepiness. Many thanks x

  2. People often think that any strain not purchased on a street corner is guaranteed to be “good”, but you broke things down very nicely.

    The uncertainty is likely why many opt for CBD oils based on popular strains instead. Being able to add terpene isolates also takes some of the guess-work out of things and allows for full customization.

  3. I have been burned in the past, but with black market,?? But I bought a lid a week past, smelled fresh and the terps were fragrant, the smoke a little harsh but the smoke tasteful. The buzz minimum. I believe I bought a oz of hemp bud, they look the same and taste the same but… beware my friends.